Remove oil from boats quickly

Kenneth Gautreaux, LeBlanc, Brian D.

News Release Distributed 07/16/10

With the reopening of large areas in Louisiana waters for recreational fishing, more boats will be encountering oil on their hulls. Experts recommend removing the oil as soon as possible to prevent additional contamination and damage to the boats.

“The best way to avoid contaminating other waters or damage to your boat is to avoid areas that have oil in them,” said Brian LeBlanc, a watershed management expert with the LSU AgCenter’s Callegari Environmental Center and Louisiana Sea Grant. “With the oil freely drifting throughout the Gulf, that is much easier said than done.”

LeBlanc said if the coating of oil is a light sheen, wipe down the boat immediately with an absorbent pad. He recommends power washing the boat and using a household dishwashing detergent to clean contaminated areas.

LeBlanc said that if the oil is not cleaned shortly after leaving the water, boat owners risk staining the hull because of the chemical composition of the oil.

If a boat becomes heavily contaminated with oil, the boat owner may have to chip the oil off the hull. To avoid this, the best solution is to avoid affected waters.

LeBlanc said the first step an owner should take is to try to remove the heavy oil with a cleaning agent or solvent such as mineral spirits.

“A substance such as mineral spirits can help loosen the oil from the hull much like fingernail polish remover does for fingernails,” LeBlanc said.

After applying the mineral spirits, LeBlanc recommends cleaning the boat as if it had only a light sheen of oil. “These steps may have to be repeated multiple times,” he said.

He cautions owners to start in a small area below or near the waterline on the boat to see how the topcoat will react to the cleaning agent.

For drastic measures, owners may have to use an instrument such as a putty knife to remove oil that has dried to the hull. This is a labor-intensive operation and should be followed by a wipe-down with mineral spirits, pressure washing and possibly multiple cleanings with detergent.

Further complicating matters is the disposal of cleaning materials and the contaminated wastewater created from the cleaning operations. LeBlanc said it may be difficult for boat owners to find a location to pressure wash a boat that is contaminated with oil. He recommends checking with local marinas first.

“If the contaminated wastewater is not collected and treated properly, other waters could become tainted,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc also suggests going to the websites of boat manufacturers or boating enthusiasts to see what other advice may be offered.

Craig Gautreaux
1/4/2011 1:10:06 AM
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